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This is the New King James text of the passages.
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Matthew 24:32-25:46    
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Mark 13:28-37
Luke 21:29-36

In this passage, we see the following in Jesus' ministry:

Additional Reading
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Tracking Bible Prophecy
The Olivet Discourse

A continuation of the Olivet discourse
A few days before Jesus was crucified, he was on Mount Olivet overlooking Jerusalem teaching his disciples. Jesus was asked to elaborate on prophetic events in Matthew 24:1-3 (also Mark 13:1-4 and Luke 21-5-7). These passages are a continuation of those comments. Click here to see the notes on Jesus' teaching in Matthew 24:1-31, Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-28. Jesus teaches in these passages on the events that will take place within the period we know as the tribulation and the millennium to follow. Find the chart below to acquire an overview of these prophetic periods.

Matthew 24 Timeline

The closing days of the seven-year tribulation (Matthew 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-31; Luke 21:29-33)

Matthew
Mark
Luke
32 ¶ “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.
33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!
34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.
35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
28 ¶ “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.
29 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors!
30 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.
31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
29 ¶ Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.
30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.
31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.
32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.
33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

Leading up to this passage, we have in view the closing days of the tribulation period. These cataclysmic events seem to correspond with the vial judgments of Revelation 16 (see notes). Then an interesting and often misunderstood analogy is given by Jesus in Matthew 24:32-34, Mark 13:28-30 and Luke 21:29-32. The analogy goes like this: When leaves appear on the trees, everybody knows that to be a sign that summer is near. Likewise, when the events just outlined in the previous verses of these chapters are viewed, the return of Jesus is near. The generation of people who see the events of the tribulation will also see the second coming of Christ.

Many good teachers have read something more into this analogy of Matthew 24:32-34, Mark 13:28-30 and Luke 21:29-32. They maintain that the fig tree here is a metaphor representing Israel. The teaching they promote is that the generation of people who saw Israel put forth leaves (become a nation in 1948) will be the generation who will see the second coming of Christ. That misunderstanding of the passage has led Christians to believe that the return of Jesus was to take place in 1978 (30 years from Israel's birth), 1988 (40 years) and again in 1998 (50 years). For those who still maintain that understanding of the "fig tree prophecy," most have now concluded that it really must mean that the generation who saw that event will still be alive when the second coming of Jesus takes place. With life expectancies now in the latter 70s, that makes that prophetic interpretation palatable until 2030 or so. Besides their lack of clarity (for the most part) between the rapture and the actual return of Jesus Christ at the end of the tribulation, there are some scriptural difficulties with this interpretation of Jesus' parable, but one particular scriptural point voids the interpretation altogether. That difficulty lies in the parallel passage to Matthew 24 found in Luke 21. We'll discuss that in a moment.

However, one well-known teacher of prophecy maintained that the "puts forth leaves" represents the land acquisition experienced by Israel as a result of the 1967 war rather than Israel's birth as a nation. He had insisted that the generation of people who witnessed the recapture of Jerusalem by the Jews in the 1967 six-day war will be the generation who will see the return of Christ rather than the generation having seen Israel declare their independence as a nation in 1948. That prediction placed the second coming of Jesus Christ in 2018 and the rapture in 2011. His "generation" was derived by dividing the number of generations (42) in Matthew 1:17 (see notes) into the number of years representing those generations. That computation yielded 51.4 years per generation. By adding 51 to 1967, he computed 2018 for the second coming. However, that prediction was issued back in 2006, and as time has neared to 2011, he has backed off of that hypothesis.

It is true - Jesus does use the fig tree to represent Israel in Luke 13:1-9 (see notes) and perhaps again in Matthew 21:18-22/Mark 11:20-26 (see notes). However, it does not appear that Jesus is using the fig tree as a metaphor for Israel here. In my mind, it over complicates this passage to view it as anything more than a simple analogy to nature. A comparison of the three accounts of Jesus' words demonstrates the reason I am convinced that Jesus is giving a simple analogy rather than a complicated metaphor. You'll see it by comparing Matthew 24:32 with Luke 21:29. Matthew writes "Now learn this parable from the fig tree." However, Luke's account expands the wording as follows in verse 29, "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees." In my thinking, the inclusion of the phrase "all the trees" eliminates the possibility that there is a hidden meaning here with the fig tree being a metaphor for Israel. Because, if the fig tree is Israel, then all the other trees must be a representation of all the other nations. Their national births took place at varying times in history. Luke's account of this teaching by Jesus seems to confirm that Jesus was giving a simple analogy to nature as previously stated.

So, when will Jesus return? (Matthew 24:36-51; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 21:34-36)

Matthew
Mark
Luke
36 ¶ “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.
41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.
42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.
43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.
44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
45 ¶ “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.
47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.
48 But if that evil servant says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming,’
49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,
50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,
51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
32 ¶ “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.
34 It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch.
35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—
36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.
37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
34 ¶ “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.
35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Both Mark and Luke close out their account of this discourse by Jesus with less detail than Matthew. Mark and Luke sum up the return of Jesus to establish His kingdom on earth at the end of the tribulation, rather simply stating the importance to keep a watch. Matthew includes the remainder of the Olivet discourse - specifics regarding how this second return of Christ will take place.

Matthew begins his expanded coverage of Jesus' remarks with the same analogy Luke recorded in Luke 17:26-27 (see notes), that of Noah. In the Noahic scenario, who left the earth, and who stayed behind? Answer: The wicked were swept away by the flood leaving the righteous family of Noah remaining alone on the earth to repopulate. This disappearance is NOT the rapture of the church. Here are two reasons why we know this is not the rapture. (1) Matthew 24 is a chronological account of the seven-year tribulation period, and this event takes place at the end of the chapter. (2) In this analogy, the wicked disappear, and that is exactly what will happen at the end of the tribulation - the wicked are destroyed in Revelation 19:11-21 (see notes), and the righteous remain on earth to populate the millennium. The rapture is NOT the second coming of Christ. According to I Thessalonians 4:13-18 (see notes) and I Corinthians 15:51-53, (see notes), Jesus appears in the clouds at the rapture, and Believers meet him in the air. There is no return of Jesus to earth at that time. Jesus does return to earth at the end of the tribulation when the wicked are destroyed off the earth and the righteous remain for the millennium.

So, what about the two in the field and the two grinding where one is taken and one is left (Matthew 24:40-41). It is obvious that the wicked one is taken away to judgment here and that the righteous one is left for the millennium, just as Noah and his family were left to repopulate the earth.

Jesus then speaks a parable with another analogy to confirm this wicked-disappearance hypothesis - the faithful servant in Matthew 24:45-51 (also briefly in Mark 13:34-35). In this parable, the faithful servant lives and the unfaithful servant dies. There simply can be no serious dispute that this is referencing the end of the tribulation and not the rapture (seven years earlier). The millennium on earth begins with only righteous people coming out of the tribulation period.

A continuation of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 25)
This Olivet Discourse that Jesus began back at the beginning of Matthew 24 (see notes) continues into chapter 25. While Mark and Luke cover the Olivet Discourse as well (Mark 13, Luke 21), neither do so as comprehensively as Matthew. Mark and Luke chronologically cover the events of the Tribulation all the way down to the end when Jesus returns to earth as Messiah. Matthew 25 continues that chronological order with additional details regarding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of the Tribulation. Matthew 25 cannot be properly understood outside of that context.

What is this wedding supper, anyway? (Matthew 25:1-13)

Matthew
1 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,
4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
6 ¶ “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’
7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
8 And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
9 But the wise answered, saying, “No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
11 ¶ “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’
12 But he answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
13 ¶ “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

Here's the culmination of the theme that Jesus has been introducing throughout his ministry - his return to establish his earthly rule as Messiah over the whole earth. Don't forget that the "Kingdom of Heaven" is the name given by Jesus to this period of earthly rule by the Messiah that had been prophesied in the Old Testament. Click here to read the introduction to Matthew 5 for a greater understanding of the term Kingdom of Heaven/God. In these verses Jesus gives a parable that compares the entry into this period by people at the end of the Tribulation to people entering into a wedding feast. As is the case with all of Jesus' parables, one must figure out who the characters are intended to represent for the parable to be meaningful. Throughout the gospels we have seen that the bad people or the foolish people in Jesus' parables are usually intended to be representations of the Jewish leaders of the day (Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes). This passage continues in that tradition.

The scenario of this parable then is as follows:

Here's the lesson of verses 1-13. Despite the clear indications of the Second Coming of the Messiah by the fulfillment of the events of Matthew 24 (Tribulation events), many Jews who say they are looking for the coming of the Messiah will be completely unprepared when the event actually takes place. These "foolish virgins" will reject Jesus as the Messiah and thus be the equivalent of those at the end of Matthew 24 who are taken away to judgment (punishment) at the conclusion of the Tribulation (see above). Those "wise virgins" will be those who enter into the "Kingdom of Heaven" pictured in this parable as a wedding feast. We know these people as those who survive the Tribulation and enter into what we now know to be the Millennium.

This wedding scenario to describe the Millennium was also used by Jesus earlier that crucifixion week in Matthew 22:1-14 (see notes).

Let's expand on the definition of "wise" and "unwise" (Matthew 25:14-30)

Matthew
14 ¶ “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.
15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.
16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.
17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.
18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.
19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
20 ¶ “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’
21 His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
22 He also who had received two talents came and said, “Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’
23 His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
24 ¶ “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.
25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
26 ¶ “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.
27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.
28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
29 ¶ “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.
30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The parable given in this passage is intended to further identify the activities of those who are "wise" during the period leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus as opposed to those who are unwise. Since Jesus gives us a glimpse of the intensity of this period in Matthew 24, this parable is intended to motivate "Kingdom of Heaven" appropriate activity during this period. Jesus indicates that the servant who anticipates the return of his master during this period is the equivalent of the "wise virgins" who had their lamps trimmed and ready to go. These "faithful servants" are those who properly prepare during the Tribulation for the return of Jesus the Messiah at end of the Tribulation. Those "wicked and lazy servants" are those Jews who, despite the indicators of the time, do not anticipate nor prepare during the Tribulation period for the Second Coming of Jesus. They are faithless. Therefore, this passage is appropriately taught by most fundamental Bible teachers as the basis for judgment of the Jews at the end of the Tribulation period. This understanding is strengthened by verse 32 (see below) where the Greek word "ethnos" is used and translated "nations" in the KJV and NKJV. The word "ethnos" is used frequently in the New Testament to differentiate between Jewish and non-Jewish people. "Ethnos" means non-Jewish and is often translated "Gentile(s)."

As for the specifics of this parable, keep in mind that the servants are charged with increasing their master's wealth while he is away. The servant who declines to do so is "wicked." Why is he wicked? Jesus implies that perhaps the "wicked" servant did not really believe his master would return. He did no work for his master while he was away. He literally rejected the mission assigned to him. We've seen this parable before with a few minor variations back in Luke 19:11-28 (see notes). There, the audience was different, but the implications of wicked people rejecting the Messiah are still integral components of that message.

What if you're not a Jew during the Tribulation? (Matthew 25:31-46)

Matthew
31 ¶ “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.
32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 ¶ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?
38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?
39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
40 And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
41 ¶ “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;
43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44 ¶ “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’
45 Then He will answer them, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’
46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

I'm confident that these verses are given to explain the actions of faith during the Tribulation period leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus by those who are not Jews. That differentiation is made clear by the Greek usage of the word "ethnos" (translated "nations" in the KJV and NKJV) in verse 32. That word is used frequently in the New Testament to differentiate between Jews and non-Jews, very often being translated "Gentile(s)." Here, the concept is that before him shall be gathered all nations [non-Jewish people who are alive at the end of the tribulation]. Verse 31 clearly gives us the time frame and setting for this judgment - at the conclusion of the Tribulation to determine who enters into the millennium. Most fundamental Bible teachers do agree that this "judgment of the nations" is a judgment of non-Jews at the end of the tribulation. Here we have the "sheep" as representations of the righteous and "goats" as representations of the "unrighteous" during the period of Tribulation. So...how does a non Jew express his faith in Jesus during the period of Tribulation leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus? The "faithful" Gentiles (non Jews) of the Tribulation will express their faith in Jesus Christ by ministering to the needs of those about the business of evangelizing the world. Those who are deemed at the end of the Tribulation to be "faithful" are rewarded in verse 34, "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Those "goats" on the left who are deemed to have been "unfaithful" (faithless) during this period of Tribulation have their reward in verse 41, "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'" The final reality of this judgment is found in Matthew 25:46, "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Incidentally, these who reject the the Gospel message in this passage are also described in Matthew 22:11-14 (see notes). In that passage they are portrayed as a man who attempts to sneak into the wedding (the millennium), but is banished instead.

Important Note about the Olivet Discourse
Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21 establish the framework upon which John's Revelation is based. Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 outline the events of Revelation 6-19. Matthew 25 corresponds to the same time frame as Revelation 20. To directly apply these passages outside of their intended prophetic periods is to do an injustice to sound Bible teaching. The people and events of these passages are to be understood as having their place in the future of the earth leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus.